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From the heady heights of Broadway to the emerging of the new age of television, Valley of the Dolls charts the highs and lows of three girls who moved to New York city with the hopes of 'making it'. Fresh faced Anne, escaping a 'comfortable' arranged marriage and a life of boredom, is a rare beauty whose obvious 'class' makes her an instant hit in New York. She wishes only to work as a secretary and live for a while on her own terms but quickly finds herself under pressure to sell her looks in modelling and make herself a good marriage with millionaire Allan Cooper who singled her out immediately. Bubbly Neely, Anne's first friend in the city, wants to make it big as a star and soon learns that she has the talent to find real success on Broadway. Jennifer is known for her beauty and longs for money to release her from the demands of her overbearing mother.
The three girls fall into a friendship that brings them all to where they most want to be - Neely to the stage, Jen to an advantageous marriage and Anne to true love. But nothing is that simple and soon the girls find their friendship tested as we follow their fortunes, good and bad, throughout three decades of life and watch as the inevitable ups and down of life lived at the top take their toll on them and the sobering truth that no high can last forever begins to show. The darker side of success is explored unflinchingly and the real cost is risking who you are for who you wish you could be.
Once I started this book I was totally hooked, it was a real page turner and one of those totally absorbing reads that is only interrupted by annoying necessities like eating and sleeping. The characters were well drawn and the story brilliantly told - with such a long period of time to cover no one part is too drawn out, the minute everything seems to settle down for one or the other of the girls we jump forward in time to another change in their lives. It's a lovely book to read because there's so much going on all the time, it feels like a 'big' read but also an easy and engrossing one - my favourite kind of book! At over 500 pages its certainly not small but I was so hooked that I finished it in a couple of days. One of my best reads so far this year - definitely recommended!
Jacqueline Susann wrote Valley of the Dolls in the 1960s and since then, it has gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide and is widely accepted as a cult classic. It follows three girls throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s as they try to make it in the fickle world of the American entertainment industry. Anne is a girl from a small town called Lawrenceville. She moves to New York with great ambition and a determination not to end up married to a boy down the road, forever living in boredom. There, she meets Neely O'Hara, a girl just 17 years of age trying to make it in acting. They both meet Jennifer North, known widely for her beauty and fully aware that her looks and body may well be her only talent. All three manage to make it in their lines of work - Anne becomes the face of a make-up giant, Neely gets a break on Broadway and eventually becomes one of the world's most well known film actresses, and Jennifer moves to Europe to pursue a career in art-houses making risqué films.
Although the plot sounds simple enough, Susann weaves a story full of twists and turns and really focuses on what fame, money and a lack of perspective can do. There is a darker side to the story, namely in the shape of sleeping pills or 'dolls,' on which all three girls eventually become addicted to. There are also intrigues, affairs and plenty of sex. This may read like a bit of a chick flick and I suppose it does enter that genre, or at least a very early form of it. However, it does go deeper than this - all is not what it seems and the book certainly doesn't end how a chick flick should.
The style of writing is intricate and the plot although simple, does have complexities lying beneath the surface. Susann uses the technique of flashbacks to deepen the characters and the reader really feels that they take a journey with all three girls that spans over 30 years. It's a book that is certainly difficult to put down as there are so many turns and surprises, you really do want to see what happens next.
I loved this book. I found it easy to read although long, and I was highly disappointed when it ended. It gives a real insight into the cut-throat nature of the business of entertainment and it's depth of meaning and darker undertones means that it's more interesting to read than a general chick-flick where everything is pretty much set out for you plot-wise, from page one. It's easy to see why this has become a cult classic and I would highly recommend it for a holiday or long train journey!